City split on dog park permission
By DAWNE LEIKER
Hoping to accelerate interest in and fundraising efforts for a dog park, Friends of the Hays Dog Park requested permission from Hays city commissioners at Thursday night's work session to start phase one of park construction.
"We want to get it moving along," FHDP president Kim Perez told commissioners about her group's goal of seeing the dog park built. "This is something new to the city of Hays, unlike a ballpark.
"They've seen kids play ball. They've never actually seen a dog park. So there's a lot of hesitation and lack of understanding. If we got something up and running, frankly, we think that would actually increase people's understanding and also monetary donations."
Construction of a dog park, estimated at $109,000, would be divided into three phases, Perez said. Stage one, estimated to cost $32,845, would entail construction of a 1.5-acre small dog area, road construction, parking lot, full staging area, and water and waste stations.
Phase two would add a 5-acre large dog park, and phase three would add other amenities.
Commissioners in June agreed to set aside approximately 6 acres for construction of the park east of the maintenance building at Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex. After four fundraisers, Perez said, the group has raised $16,500.
Five additional fundraisers are in the planning stages.
Although Commissioners Henry Schwaller IV and Eber Phelps were encouraging to group members, agreeing beginning phase one of construction could lead to increased donations and interest in the park, Commissioners Kent Steward, Ron Mellick and Shaun Musil had a few concerns.
The "elephant in the room" that bothered Mellick, he said, was the city might be forced at some point to finish a project another entity started.
"I don't want this to turn into another FAST project," Mellick said, referring to the Hays USD 489 Building FAST program.
"I'm afraid when you're using the small dog park for the large dogs and you're having trouble, hopefully you aren't, on phase two, you'll come back to the city and you'll want the city to help out on this.
"That's what I'm leery about."
Several issues concerned Steward, including having large dogs and small dogs together in one park during phase one of construction and that the park might become an "eyesore" if the project was left uncompleted.
"And then, of course, the next step is, the city, you've started this, you need to step up and finish it," he said.
Perez addressed the commissioners' points.
"It would be a less-than-ideal park to only be 1.5 acres, but it would still be maintained," she said. "It would still be utilized.
"Even if it took us beyond that two years to get the money for the larger park, I still think the smaller park would continue to be utilized."
Seeing the park in construction, Schwaller and Phelps said, likely would jumpstart fundraising efforts.
"Once you get that first phase done, and people start utilizing it, those are your salesmen, your new ambassadors and advocates for the next phase," Phelps said.
Commissioners will vote on whether to give FHDP permission to proceed with phase one during next Thursday's regular meeting.
In other business, commissioners:
* Discussed providing direction for the Sister Cities Advisory Board. It was agreed City Manager Toby Dougherty would meet with a member of the board to give the group input from the commission.
* Saw a presentation by Marvin Honas, solid waste superintendent, regarding the city's recycling efforts.
* Received information from Jesse Rohr, planning, inspection and enforcement superintendent, about several building condemnations at Fort Hays Trailer Park, 618 E. Fifth. Commissioners will vote next week on whether to take action to demolish the structures.
* Discussed updates to the city's newly seeded lawn permits. Commissioners will vote on the changes at their next meeting.